Wetland_WinterI love my swamp. You probably love yours, too—we all have a little ogre in us. Do we really have to share to keep our wetlands healthy?
I am often inclined to hold the swamp that lies east of my land as a personal possession. There are those around me who have a much more credible claim on the swamp, being third and fourth generation residents on its flanks. But they will forgive me such presumption, I hope, with a little explanation.
Most people consider it self evident that preserving fresh, clean water in our postindustrial age is among the highest priorities at every level, personal right through to corporate and governmental. In October of 2012, the Province of Saskatchewan initiated the Water Security Agency of Saskatchewan (WSA) as a one-agency clearinghouse to set water management policy for the next 25 years. Flooding in recent years was at least in part responsible for the creation of the agency. But the WSA’s security plan implies a complicated path ahead where industrial, agricultural, and public water demands will compete for policy preference. Issues affecting water preservation and quality will engage debate over uses as polarizing as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for fossil fuels, irrigation, storage of nuclear waste in the north, and the seemingly benign demands for recreational aquatic spaces. Should the public choose to engage in this process in any significant way (as it needs to), this will be a demanding and pivotal 25 years.
So I am less than complacent as I regard the Snake Creek swamp, the most common name given the wetland by my neighbours. There are two things that niggle at me about it. The first is that I depend upon it. The Snake Creek is the channel of water that runs between the Swan River in the north and the Assiniboine River in the south. My source of water lies a few kilometres south of the swamp. It is a simple community well, a shallow hole poked into a precious gravel aquifer. What role the swamp plays in the purity of that aquifer I cannot say with any scientific accuracy. But there it sits, a magnificent filter for surface and ground water, upstream of the stuff I drink and give to my kids.
The other thing that tugs at my thoughts is that the swamp is so vulnerable to change. “One thing that comes to mind,” says James Nelson, reflecting on his family’s long relationship with Snake Creek, “is that my grandparents would have fished out of the creek.” The waterway between the Swan and Assiniboine rivers was, at the time of farm settlement a century ago, moving water capable of supporting fish. Only a short section of that original creek is still visible near the centre of the wetland. Change has already been dramatic, much of it in living memory.
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